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New Girocards make withdrawing money abroad more expensive

It was a loyal travel companion for 30 years: the Girocard (formerly EC card) with Maestro function.

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New Girocards make withdrawing money abroad more expensive

It was a loyal travel companion for 30 years: the Girocard (formerly EC card) with Maestro function. The logo with the red and blue circle ensured that the card, which is actually very German, could be billed internationally via the Mastercard system.

This will end for all new cards from July of this year. That means: Outside of Germany, you won't be able to do much with the Girocard. It will then no longer be possible to pay with it in restaurants or when shopping, and you will no longer be able to withdraw money with it.

What to do? For many, nothing will change at first. Because cards with a Maestro function that have already been issued are still valid until the end of their term. But if you need a new card, you have to look for alternatives in order to remain liquid abroad.

Credit card travelers are fine. The common Mastercard and Visa cards tend to be a bit more expensive, but are internationally recognized. This is probably also the deeper reason why Mastercard no longer supports the giro card: more is simply earned with the “right” Mastercards.

The local banks that issue the Girocard, on the other hand, have to come up with something new. And some have already started. From Comdirect to DKB, it is primarily direct banks that recommend their customers to use debit cards instead of credit cards and sometimes no longer offer Girocards at all.

The argument: The new cards supposedly combine the advantages of both systems. The worldwide acceptance, the possibility to pay online and the control over the expenses are praised, because the transaction is debited immediately from the current account, unlike with the classic credit card.

According to the will of large parts of the banking industry, debit cards are to replace the good old Girocard (formerly EC card). As with this, the bank debits the transactions directly and in full from the current account without delay, while with the credit card the transactions are only collected once a month by direct debit from the current account. Debit cards from Visa or Mastercard can be easily recognized by the addition "Debit" on the card.

However, acceptance of the new cards is not as far away as the banks promise. Complaints from travelers are increasing online and among consumer protection agencies. There are complaints that many shops in Germany do not accept the debit card, and restaurants, car repair shops and pharmacies also seem to be shy. The reason for this is simple: the debit card costs the merchant higher fees than a credit card.

No wonder that the consumer portal Biallo "not yet sees the acceptance of debit credit cards at the same level as the Girocard". "Self-service terminals at gas stations are often only designed for Girocards," it says - and further: "There are also difficulties with debit credit cards at Deutsche Post acceptance points and in authorities if citizens want to pay cash there for their new ID card."

Things get really ticklish abroad: At Stiftung Warentest, complaints rained down after a positive debit card report. A vacationer had booked a rental car in the USA and already paid in full. Despite this, he did not receive the rented car at the airport - the debit card was not accepted as a deposit. Only extensive phone calls to the car rental hotline brought the solution: outrageously expensive additional insurance.

Other travelers also complained about the lack of acceptance abroad: sometimes the debit card was not accepted at cash machines, sometimes not in hotels, and the new card type was already exhausted at the first gas station in Austria.

Another disadvantage of debit cards is that hotels like to hold a deposit during the stay against damage to the room or unpaid bills. To do this, they block the - often quite substantial - deposit amount on the current account belonging to the debit card. And depending on the account balance, this can lead to the monthly rent payment or other standing orders not being carried out at home.

As a result, Stiftung Warentest revised its originally positive assessment of the debit cards. Her current conclusion: “Debit cards are not a full substitute for either the Girocard or a real credit card. It's safer to have a second card with you – or enough cash.”

When withdrawing money by debit card, there also seem to be cost problems: According to the Hamburg consumer advice center, the DKB advertises its Visa debit card with the fact that you can withdraw money “free of charge from ATMs worldwide”. The term “free” probably only refers to the fees of the DKB bank. Retailers and ATM operators, on the other hand, often charge fees for using the machines. However, the consumer advocates only found a subtle hint in the small print.

There are already enough costs when withdrawing money: caution is required, especially outside the euro zone. The payment processors behave more boldly than the worst classic exchange offices and lure unsuspecting holidaymakers into three traps.

Case number one is that the cash machine or card reader in the shop offers to convert Polish zloty, Swiss francs or Turkish lira immediately into euros – at underground rates. The buzzwords on the display are "immediate conversion" and "guaranteed exchange rate". Stiftung Warentest found that anyone who responds to this always pays extra.

Case number two occurs when the foreign bank or the ATM operator gets the money from the customer's bank. According to the test, many foreign banks then hold themselves harmless again: with hefty ATM and payment fees of up to eight euros per payment transaction.

Trap number three is then set up by the local bank. Because for use abroad, the domestic card issuer almost always asks for a commission of one to two percent. Since 2021, you can no longer withdraw money abroad from ATMs with the plus sign free of charge with the Postbank Sparcard. According to the financial test, only the DKB credit card (not: the debit card) allows you to withdraw money and pay abroad free of charge.

What can you do? The testers recommend comparing the fees of the ATMs and in any case refusing the conversion into euros wherever possible. But often the only thing that helps is to change the ATM or the shop.

Most vacationers don't even notice the exchange rate and fee tricks. Who remembers the amount and the exact exchange rate when, weeks later, you only see an amount in euros debited from your account statement at home?

Croatia has been a member of the euro area and the Schengen area since the beginning of the new year. EU Commission President von der Leyen congratulated Croatian Prime Minister Plenkovic on the Croatian-Slovenian border.

Source: WORLD

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